The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence
Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin
Sue Bennett is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of
Karl Maton is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the
University of Sydney.
Lisa Kervin is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong.
Address for correspondence: Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong,
Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (forthcoming, 2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate:
A critical review of the evidence, British Journal of Educational Technology.
The idea that a new generation of students is entering the education system has
excited recent attention amongst educators and education commentators. Termed
‘digital natives’ or the ‘Net generation’, these young people are said to have been
immersed in technology all their lives, imbuing them with sophisticated technical
skills and learning preferences for which traditional education is unprepared. Grand
claims are being made about the nature of this generational change and about the
urgent necessity for educational reform in response. A sense of impending crisis
pervades this debate. However the actual situation is far from clear. In this paper, the
authors draw on the fields of education and sociology to analyse the digital natives
debate. The paper presents and questions the main claims made about digital natives
and analyses the nature of the debate itself. We argue that rather than being
empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form
of a ‘moral panic’. We propose that a more measured and disinterested approach is
now required to investigate ‘digital natives’ and their implications for education.
The one thing that does not change is that at any and every time it appears that there
have been ‘great changes’
Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove